January 18, 2014

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Enlisted”


ENLISTED:  Friday 9:30PM on FOX

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on ENLISTED:  The brothers Hill–demoted hero soldier Pete (Geoff Stults), cynical Derrick (Chris Lowell) and earnest, dumb Randy (Parker Young)–all serve on a Florida Army base, where Pete is Sergeant of his brothers’ platoon.  Their commanding officer is one-legged Sergeant Major Wallace (Keith David).  Also on the base:  the other platoon’s Sergeant, lovely and competitive Jill Perez (Angelique Cabral).

Episode 2:  Based on its first pair of episodes, Enlisted has a grand total of two gags in its repertoire.  One is that Randy is a kind-hearted moron, and the other is that Pete and Perez won’t admit they’re falling for each other.  Both were the subjects of the second episode, written by staff writers Jeff Chiang and Eric Ziobrowski, and directed by Phil Traill.  Randy, it turned out, couldn’t pass his marksmanship test because he was just too nice, seeing the paper targets as human beings he couldn’t bear to shoot; in order to coach him, Derrick had to (temporarily) break him of his sentimentality by making him talk through the plot of Toy Story 3 without crying.  Meanwhile, Pete and Perez tied for the marksmanship trophy, and they spent the half-hour coming up with more and more far-fetched competitions (including a Top Chef parody cook-off) to prove who was the better soldier, while everyone around them noted that they were really flirting with each other.

It was all very, very silly, and played several more notches over the top than necessary.  The result was a lot of hard work that engendered few laughs.  The performers, especially Keith David, are sharp enough, and the enterprise in general is genial, but it all has the feeling of someone in a bar who’s not nearly as funny as he thinks he is, responding to a lack of laughs to his jokes by repeating the punchlines over and over and louder and louder as the night goes on and the drinks keep getting poured.

Even for Friday night, Enlisted had a subpar premiere, with a 0.7 rating that fell from its Raising Hope lead-in.  There was nothing in the second episode to suggest any hope of improvement, in quality or viewer interest, from that dire start.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

PILOT + 1:  Hell No, We Won’t Go


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."